How to find out what the “female empowerment” program really empowers women

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How to find out what the “female empowerment” program really empowers women
Many aid programs in low-income countries aim to “entitle women”. Not only do they want to increase women’s income, health and education, but they also have the ability to make their own decisions in all aspects of life.

But how do you measure the degree to which a woman controls her life?

“I don’t think it’s been five or six years since we tried to do this. And it’s actually very difficult,” Mayra Buvinic said. As the former director of the World Bank’s Gender and Development, she helped develop a growing effort to measure women’s empowerment.

Buvinic, now in the Washington, DC think tank Global Development Center, recently convened a workshop to discuss these challenges – and exchange some creative strategies, including experimental games and scenarios.

Many researchers at the conference pointed out that it is difficult for project participants to make such a strong topic so that plan participants can honestly describe their views and experiences. “People tell you what they think you want to hear,” Buvinic said.

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João Montalvo, an economist at the World Bank’s African Gender Innovation Lab, said his new study of Liberian girls pointed out the complexity of the problem. He found that when girls were asked about their sexual behavior, their answers were strongly influenced by the interviewees. For example, girls are less likely to disclose their sexual activity to interviewers who hold traditional views about gender roles – even if the interviewer follows a strict script and does not verbally disclose these personal opinions.

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Somehow, Montalvo said that despite this, the interviewers still conveyed their private views, “probably through non-verbal means – their problems look at their eyes in the way they ask questions.”

How to solve this problem? Of course, one answer is to carefully review and account for the characteristics of research assistants who are conducting face-to-face interviews. However, a new practical guide to such research, produced by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Laboratory (J-PAL), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, encourages researchers to conduct more innovative research.

One of the authors is Rachel Glennerster, a former executive director of J-PAL and the current chief economist for the International Development Department of the UK’s foreign aid agency. She pointed out that the guide includes an example of a research group that showed a “small episode” to their subject. These are basically hypothetical scenarios and then require the subject to weigh.

In this case, Glennerster said researchers are working on a school plan to reduce discrimination against girls in northern India. Therefore, they introduced the story of a fictional 21-year-old country girl named “Pooja” to the young people in the study – she is at the forefront of realizing her long-term dream of becoming a policeman.

Imagine the researchers telling the children that Pooja had just graduated from college, passed the police exam and got a job offer. But her parents think this is not suitable for young women. What’s more, they say, Pooja wants to marry a husband who can raise her good family while taking care of the family and children.

So Pooja’s parents found out she was a future groom – and told her that she should get married instead of accepting police work. Do teenagers agree with their parents’ decisions?

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Glennister said the idea is to assess the extent to which young people think women should be allowed to work outside the home. But asking such a common and problematic question directly is unlikely to produce too much insight. By asking questions in a specific context similar to the situation faced by many of their own relatives and friends, researchers can come up with more honest and detailed answers.

Glennerster also highlighted the second equally daunting obstacle to measuring the effectiveness of programs designed to empower women. As Glennast said, “Giving women empowers them to give them meaningful choices – but we rarely observe decisions directly.” So, she said, researchers should consider trying to create conditions that allow them to at least do this. Kind of observation.

For example, the guide describes how researchers from Dartmouth use games to measure the power of a group of married women in Kenya to their money. The main point is that the husband and wife receive a small bonus of about $7, and through various rules and random draws, have the opportunity to decide jointly or separately how to spend money. Researchers want to understand the extent to which decisions are made when compared to their husbands when women make their own decisions.

Glennister says a similar strategy is to create an environment in which communities can make real-world decisions without realizing that researchers are tracking the process. She described how she used this method in her recent experiments. It tested the effectiveness of a plan in Sierra Leone that should have increased the ability of women to participate in village decision-making, such as how to spend aid.

Glennerster arranged a research assistant to tell each group that was being researched. “We will spend a lot of your time doing these investigations. So we want to give you a present. We have two gifts at the back. Trucks – we have salt, we have Battery – we want to know which one you like.”

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Then, Glennast said, “We take a step back and look at it.” They want to see: Does the village chief just make a decision without consulting other communities? If the villagers did discuss it, would women speak? And how long does it last?

They found that about a third of the time, the person in charge called himself. Even when a village meeting was held, there was no difference in the number of women participating in the review and the number of women in the control group who did not participate in the empowerment program.

In other words, Granast said that this is a “only four years to convince people in these villages.” You need to listen to women’s programs. [Our Discovery] is a good indicator, in fact the voice of women has not changed in these communities. ”

She said that this does not mean that such a plan has no potential value. But it emphasizes the importance of using rigorous research to ensure that they truly achieve their goals.

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